Khelan Style: Academic Chic Works for Everyone

by Borderstan.com January 28, 2011 at 5:30 am 3,141 10 Comments

Andrew Lara Khelan Bhatia Duplex Diner

At left, Andrew wears a Ralph Lauren rugby shirt, dress shirt from J.Crew and tie from Tommy Hilfiger. Khelan is in a blazer from H&M, oxford shirt from American Apparel and madras tie from J.Crew.

Khelan Bhatia lives in the U Street area and recently started writing about style for Borderstan.

Welcome back, Borderstanis, to my second column on style and fashion. I promise to do my best not to have a sophomore-slump, like so many of our favorite musicians.

So speaking of music, I recently attended a Glee-inspired birthday party for my friends, Andrew and Paul, at the Duplex Diner. The invitations, decorations and music were all influenced by that kitschy musical dramedy set in high school. The birthday boys even did their own fun riff on Darren Criss’s “Kurt’s Teenage Dream.”

At the party, I kept thinking about Glee’s popularity and why it resonates with so many of us who haven’t seen the halls of our high schools in years.

Why is it such a phenomenon? Is it the Broadwayesque renditions of pop songs we say we hate (but secretly love)? Well, sure. Who doesn’t want to hear what those kids do with Katy Perry or Lady Gaga or even Florence + the Machine?

Khelan Bhatia Style Andrew Lara

Andrew wears a cardigan sweater from Reiss and gingham shirt from J.Crew. (Photo by Scott Henrichsen, scottfoto.com)

Is it the rapier wit of Sue Sylvester and the vapid, yet deceptively clever non sequiturs from Brittany S. Pierce? Hilarious, for sure. But the appeal goes deeper than that. At least it does for me.

On some subconscious level, it allows me to relive a pivotal time in my life. No, not the first time I bought a plaid shirt, but nice try. I’m, of course, referring to high school, that time in our lives where our hormones were raging and nothing made sense, and yet, we postured like we knew it all and we occasionally broke out in song.

Paul is in a blazer from Banana Republic, shirt from BR Monogram, sweater vest by Polo and tie from a little boutique in Venice. (Photo by Scott Henrichsen, scottfoto.com)

Okay, maybe not so much the last part… unless you were in the choir. For a lot of us, like yours truly, grades 9 through 12 were less than ideal. Shows set in high school (e.g., Glee, Gossip Girl, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 90210, Veronica Mars), in their own ways, give us a do over for that often frustrating yet absolutely memorable time in our lives. We can be more popular, better dressed, better looking, smarter, have wittier come backs and so on. And, unlike real life, our problems can usually be solved within a handful of episodes or by the end of sweeps.

So this is the part where you’re wondering when I’m gonna talk about style, right? Stick with me; I swear I’ll get there.

Okay… I’m there.

If one believes that fashion is cyclical (and I do), then for the past few years, we’ve been in an Americana, preppy phase. There’s a little subset of this style that I like to call “academic chic.” Think cardigans, khakis, ties with diagonal stripes, plaid skirts, rugbys, sweater vests and tweed blazers with suede elbow patches.

These articles of clothing have become ubiquitous, especially in our little neighborhood, for the same reason that high school shows are so popular with those of us who have already had our 10-year high school reunions and beyond.

Virtually everyone looks good in this academia-based look. Start with a pair of slim-cut khakis (I like the ones from Dockers believe it or not), then go a slightly-rumpled oxford shirt (can’t go wrong with J.Crew), add a cardigan (I haven’t purchased anything from Banana Republic in years, but this cardigan is making me reconsider) and then finish it off with a fun tie that will give your look a sense of whimsy. Since we’re still in winter, a toggle coat is the perfect piece of outer wear for this look (I love this one from Rugby).

Remember last week how I said an outfit is a suit of armor? Well, ironically, “academic chic” reminds me how far I’ve come since I graduated from Kempner High in Sugar Land, Texas. In a way, it’s an armor that protects me from my past and makes me look forward to the future… stylishly, natch.

That’s it for this week. I welcome all comments and questions. You can email me at [email protected] or follow me on Twitter @KhelanB.

  • “Ties with diagonal stripes” are known as Repp ties, FYI.

    Could we focus our attention on more pressing fashion matters such as the appropriate break for our trousers given the type, the cut, and the rise of the pants or a gentleman’s particular stature? Given the many options we have to choose among boot cuts, skinny, tapered, regular, and whatnot, this would be most useful advice.

    Also I would like to solicit suggestions you or the reading audience might have for the appropriate winter shoe to wear that looks dashing all the while possessing the weather-worthiness to assuredly navigate us across those shameful unshoveled dc sidewalks. Perhaps something that we can wear for our daily walking commute to the metro, to the office, and even to the latest urban haunts?


  • Ooooh! Leather + waterproof!!!! Loves! Wants!

    Thanks for the very smart reference. And at such an affordable price too!

  • Mandy

    Let’s discuss the DC high fashion in womens and mens wear of visible coin slots (butt cracks) and plunging pant fronts (thank God for bikini waxing or we would really have sights to see).
    Are these looks supposed to be appealing, erotic? What is the fashion statement supposed to be?

    Is the Yoga Wear look to the movies, grocery store, library and shopping mall here to stay?

    • Khelan

      It should (hopefully) go without saying that “coin slots” (love that term btw) are highly inappropriate. I always believe that you have no idea who you’re going to run into when out and about, even when running errands, so why not try to look your best?

  • hej hej

    This is a comment not so much about the content of this post, but its existence. Namely, why is this on Borderstan? What does it have to do with events in the neighborhood? As someone who lives in the area, I value Borderstan for the way it keeps me up to date on events where I live. This post is, well, rather less useful.

    • Khelan

      Thanks for your comment. The reason for this existence of this column is that the fine gentlemen who run Borderstan asked for feedback on what they would like to see from this blog. It’s my understanding that the readers asked for a column on style/fashion which led Matt and Luis to ask me to write it.

      The beauty of Borderstan and, well, the Internet in general is you get to read what you want and ignore what you don’t want.

      Take care.

  • Thanks for commenting. Here is our take as the editors of Borderstan. D.C. is a very different city than it was a decade ago. The influx of new (and young) residents has contributed greatly to the arts and style. We believe there is an interest in the style and fashion and that is why Khelan has joined us.

  • Good post! It’s interesting to view about this! This is definitely some good information!


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